Gov. Jay Inslee speaks before signing bills aimed at increasing voter access Monday in Tukwila. Among the bills was a measure to preregister 16 and 17 year olds so that they can vote as soon as they turn 18. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks before signing bills aimed at increasing voter access Monday in Tukwila. Among the bills was a measure to preregister 16 and 17 year olds so that they can vote as soon as they turn 18. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

Gov. Inslee signs package of voter access bills

By Rachel La Corte

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday signed a package of bills aimed at increasing voter access in Washington state, including a measure to preregister 16- and 17-year-olds and another that allows in-person voter registration to occur the same day of an election.

“I’m proud of our state for making it easier to vote, not harder,” Inslee told the crowd of students and other supporters at Foster High School in Tukwila, where the bill signing ceremony was held.

Under one of the measures , starting on July 1, 2019, people can preregister to vote starting at age 16, though they won’t be added to the list of registered voters until the next election at which they’ll be 18.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington will join 12 states and the District of Columbia in allowing preregistration beginning at age 16. Four other states allow preregistration beginning at age 17, and an additional five states have varying rules for when a person may preregister when they near age 18.

“Young people should be the ones to shape the future, because it’s our future that we are all voting for,” Foster senior Maria Alvarez told the crowd. “We are the change.”

Under another measure signed by Inslee, starting June 30, 2019, Washington voters will be able to register to vote in person at a county auditor’s office or elections office up until 8 p.m. the night of an election. Current law cuts off in-person registration at no later than eight days before an election. Currently, 15 states and D.C. allow same day voter registration, according to NCSL.

For people wanting to submit voter registrations online or through the mail, those registrations must be received eight days before an election in order for the person to be able to vote. Current law requires online and mail registrations to be submitted no later than 29 days before an election.

Also signed Monday:— A measure seeking to reform representation of minorities in local elections opens the possibility of court challenges to cities, counties and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present. It takes effect in June.

A bill to automatically register qualified residents who currently aren’t on the voter rolls but apply for or renew an enhanced driver’s license, starting July 1, 2019.

Currently in Washington, people can opt in for voter registration when getting a standard driver’s license. Under the bill signed Monday, those with or applying for enhanced licenses or identification cards — which require citizenship verification — would need to opt out in order to not have their information sent to the secretary of state’s office and county auditors for registration.

Also starting July 1, 2019 people who register for the state’s health benefit exchange will be able to opt in for voter registration.

— A measure that requires nonprofit organizations, who are not defined as political committees, to file statements with the Public Disclosure Commission if they make contributions or expenditures on campaigns above a specified threshold and to disclose certain contributors, starting Jan. 1, 2019.

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